Students Co-found Intersectional Feminist Club

By Angel Mindanao

The Intersectional Feminist Club logo by Gabriella Walrath.

“In my home growing up, there were stereotypes as to how men and women should act. Feminism is about helping us learn to not think like that.”

— Lehman chemistry professor Grant Akalonu

On Wednesday, Aug. 30, the Intersectional Feminist Club (IFC) made its first appearance at Lehman’s annual Fall Semester Kick-Off!, hosted by the Office of Community Engagement. Pink pins and stickers from Planned Parenthood were laid out on its table as President Rebecca Bialostozky, Vice President Amna Azeem, and Secretary Gabriella Walrath reached out to recruit students. By the end of the event, the first feminist club at Lehman had acquired over two pages of signatures---including that of the author of this article.

The club is overdue considering that as of the 2016-2017 school year, female students comprised 69 percent of Lehman’s population, according to Forbes. Bialostozky, a senior and biochemistry major who transferred to Lehman after deciding to pursue the pre-medical track, said, “I was surprised to learn that Lehman student life was very active, but there was no feminist club.” This lack prompted Bialostozky to start the IFC. She was first inspired in March 2016 after attending the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in the District of Columbia, which was sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Everyone needs feminism,” she said, noting that intersectionality, or the overlapping of social categorizations, “should encompass all social justice because in almost every group, women are oppressed. When we see it from a feminist standpoint, we can really see the intersectionality.”

Walrath, a junior and computer generated imaging major, originally joined as a logo designer. When asked to serve as secretary, she saw it as the perfect opportunity to express her passion for promoting feminism. She has identified as a feminist since age 16, she said, when she was catcalled by a group of men. “Women shouldn't be seen as pieces of meat for men's sexual gratification. We are their equals and deserve to have our bodies respected.”

Pictured (left to right) Amna Azeem, Patricia Calderon, Angel Mindanao, Gabriella Walrath, Rebecca Bialostozky, and Donald Garcia-Dwyer. Photo by Grant Akalonu.

Grant Akalonu, who is an adjunct professor of chemistry at Lehman, hopes to help out as the club’s unofficial faculty advisor. Although he has not experienced the same forms of discrimination the female members of the club have, he wants to support the club as much as possible. He said, “Whenever the club needs a male perspective, I’m always around to give it.” Akalonu was moved after watching “The Mask You Live In,” a documentary about patriarchy and how it affects men and women. “Even though I’m not a woman and it is perceived as a woman’s movement,” he said, “men can benefit just as much as women from feminism. In my home growing up, there were stereotypes as to how men and women should act. Feminism is about helping us learn to not think like that.” 

Both Bialostozky and Walrath also stated that they grew up in cultures where gender roles were strictly defined. They want to use their education to spread social justice awareness and create a safe space for feminists in the IFC. Open to all students, the club will meet twice a month and host several events including movie screenings, TED Talks and monthly discussions. “Acknowledgement is the first, and often most difficult step, to combating sexism,” said Bialostozky. “I encourage students at Lehman to become aware of sexism and if they feel safe, speak out when they see it. Once you acknowledge feminism, you no longer have a passive role. It’s a choice.”

From Chicago to the Bronx: Campus Socialists Raise Students’ Political Consciousness

By Zoe Fanzo

A poster seen at Socialism 2017 in Chicago. Photo by Zoe Fanzo.

Lehman’s International Socialist Organization (ISO) is promoting leftist politics on campus, with plans to hold radical discussions every other week building on a summer trip that deepened students’ political awareness. [Full disclosure: the author of this article is an ISO member.]

The weekend following Independence Day, ISO members Ellie Hamrick, a professor of anthropology, and Carlos Perez, a computer science major, arranged for five Lehman students to attend the annual Socialism Conference in Chicago, where over 2,000 people participated in discussions and plenaries given from a Marxist perspective. With 160 discussion topics to choose from over the weekend, like “The Combahee River Collective and the Black Feminist Tradition” and “Act Up, Fight Back: The AIDS Crisis and the LGBTQ Movement,” attendees were able to engage in discussions that peaked their specific interests.

“History tells us time and time again that it doesn’t matter who is sitting in the White House, but who’s sitting in.”

- Carlos Perez, computer science major

Students left Chicago with a better understanding of their own political identities, as well as a desire to become politically active. Lehman student Aileen Pelegrin, a theatre major, explained, “Throughout my first Socialism Conference, I learned more than I ever did throughout my entire education. I learned about all the injustice that goes on in different job markets. I learned that oppression goes so much further than just a racial issue. The entire country needs help and needs to be modified.”

Lehman student Christian Machuca, a psychology major, decided to become a member of the ISO after his experience in Chicago. He recalled, “The Chicago trip helped me in multiple ways, such as increasing my competence on certain issues and ideas. It allowed me to interact with people who share similar views or enlighten me if their perspectives were different. It was informative, but also fun.”

Lehman students wait for their flight to Chicago. From left to right: Richard Orta, Zoe Fanzo, Aileen Pelegrin, Christian Machuca, Carlos Perez. Photo courtesy of Ellie Hamrick.

ISO members are eager to see leftist politics blossom on campus. The club began on campus last fall, and given the formation of the LGBTQ+ Alliance and the Intersectional Feminist Club within the last few months, it seems leftist politics are having their moment at Lehman. Hamrick, who serves as the Lehman ISO branch coordinator, hopes to see students become politically energized this fall. “I think it is crucial that Lehman students not only understand why the world is the way it is, but how it can be changed, and that we as workers have the power to change it,” said Hamrick. “Capitalism causes untold misery all around the world. If things don’t change very, very soon, not only will human suffering continue, but we may not even have a planet to live on much longer. The left must get organized. I think that’s what students got out of this conference, and I hope they’ll be working to make that perspective a reality on campus this fall.”

ISO Member Carlos Perez echoed the sentiment that student involvement is integral to organizing the left. “Bringing a new layer of students who are politically engaged and see the necessity of an active struggle for a better world was paramount,” Perez noted. “The majority of people have been inculcated with a passive, fatalist conception of politics…which is expressed as the false choice between Democrats or Republicans…My goal with our trip to Socialism was to show students an alternative to these politics, and show them how people and social movements make history, not the custodians of power who often do their best to shut them down.”

The ISO plans to hold a public meeting every other Wednesday of the semester, with each session tackling the Marxist perspective of a relevant issue. Through such events it hopes to continue its mission of spreading political consciousness within the student body, and building solidarity amongst the campus’ leftist organizations.

“History tells us time and time again that it doesn’t matter who is sitting in the White House,” Perez remarked, “but who’s sitting in.”

Money and Location Keep Bronxites out of Gyms

By Jorel Lonesome

 

The Lehman community utlizing gym facilities in the APEX. Photo by Jorel Lonesome.

The Lehman community utlizing gym facilities in the APEX. Photo by Jorel Lonesome.

The Bronx could be in better shape, and Lehman students know it. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in 2015, nearly 98 percent of Bronx residents had access to exercise---but the borough’s adult obesity rate averages 28 percent, as does physical inactivity. So, what’s causing these unhealthy rates?

Students cite socioeconomic and environmental factors as their biggest impediments to fitness. Several said threats to their physical safety were their prime concern. Lehman sophomore Christina Lopez, 22, said, “Some gym locations in the Bronx are unsafe. The gym will open at 5 or 6 a.m., but that's also the time when criminal activity occurs while everyone is still asleep in their beds.” She also noted that increasing the use of fitness centers would boost the economy, too. “More gyms would bring more businesses relating to health and wellness, which would add more jobs as well.”

A study from citylimits.org confirms this connection between a flagging economy and a lack of gyms. In it, Jarrett Murphy and Katherine Guerrero note that “exercise awareness and participation increases with income, and the Bronx is the city’s poorest borough. Exercise takes time, and Bronxites spend more of their day going to and from work than residents of any other borough: Manhattan residents, on average, have 24 extra minutes each day to hit the gym than people who live in the Bronx.” Their review also pointed out that of eight major gym chains, there were only 23 in the Bronx compared to 71 in Manhattan.

Euriel Murray, a sophomore who plays for the Lehman Lightning baseball team, seconded this. “Better quality gyms aren’t in the Bronx, they’re mostly in the upscale parts of Manhattan. You basically get what you pay for and the equipment is not always the best.”

Lehman biological science professor, Stephen M. Redenti agreed. “I don't think there's enough people attending gyms. There’s not sufficient access to a variety of equipment, especially in less corporate gyms.”

However, Lopez suggested that independent gyms might be better for students because they would be more supportive. “Family oriented gyms like the YMCA, is not only safer, but people begin to know each other over time, to the point they develop a sense of community and friendship.”

Desiree Rosa, 20, a communications major at Lehman, also felt that a strong community would help get her to the gym. With her current work-life pattern, she said, “I get less social bonding. It’s ironic because my major in communications obviously involves interacting with people, but working part time and attending school doesn’t even make me think about going to the gym. Working, then heading to my classes is a workout in itself. I sometimes go for a jog, but not so often.”

One place students can work out close to home is Lehman’s Apex Center, an auxiliary gym. It holds a track, racquetball, basketball and volleyball courts, ballet and aerobic studios, and one of only two 50-meter eight lane swimming pools in greater New York that meet current Olympic swimming and water polo standards.  And it is free for students.

“Exercise takes time, and Bronxites spend more of their day going to and from work than residents of any other borough.”

- citylimits.org

Murray argued that education would also help raise community fitness. “We aren’t properly educated about exercise. We should get educated about calculating our calories, vitamins, minerals and learning different types of diets.”

However, some students blamed their lack of fitness on their drive to further their education. Angel Arroyo, 23, a junior and English major at Lehman, said “It’s the pressure to study hard, reading all given material and do well on these assignments” that keeps her from the gym. “I gained five to ten pounds during my first two years at college,” she recalled. “I was in a new environment, so I wasn’t able to keep up the same exercise level I was used to during high school.” But, she added, she has plans to buy a skateboard. “Maybe that will knock off a few pounds,” she said, “when I start riding in skate parks.”